Tejpal charged with rape; home ministry seeks report

    By IANS,

    Panaji/New Delhi: Tehelka founder and editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal, accused of sexually assaulting a junior colleague in a five-star hotel earlier this month, was Friday booked for rape by Goa Police as the union home ministry swung into action and sought details of the incident. The famed journalist promised “full cooperation” in the probe.

    Support TwoCircles

    The Goa Police Crime Branch booked Tejpal for rape and criminal assault, acting suo motu on the basis of the hotel’s CCTV footage and a leaked copy of a complaint filed by the victim to Shoma Chaudhury, the managing editor of Tehelka.

    Tejpal, 50, was accused of sexually assaulting a junior woman colleague twice in a hotel elevator during the Tehelka ThinkFest, a high profile conference organised by the weekly magazine in a north Goa hotel earlier this month.

    The victim was in fact a key member of the liaison team dealing with Oscar award-winning actor Robert De Niro and his guests.

    “We should crack down on such type of high profile crimes which shatter the confidence of the common man. The FIR has to be filed in case of the cognisable crime which has taken place. I am not declaring someone guilty,” said Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

    Police also seized CCTV footage from the hotel management.

    The union home ministry also sought a report in the matter.

    “The home ministry has asked for all details of Tehelka case from the Goa government. This is an extremely serious matter,” Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh said on Twitter.

    Breaking his silence for the first time, Tejpal said “serious allegations” have been levelled against him “and unfortunately, as sometimes happens in life, the complete truth and the need to do the honourable thing can come into conflict”.

    “I offer my fullest cooperation to the police and all other authorities, and look to presenting all the facts of this incident to it,” he said.

    “I also urge the committee and the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that the accurate version of events stand clearly revealed,” he said.

    Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit described the incident as a “matter of concern and an attack on the self-respect of women”.

    Demanding a criminal trial against Tejpal, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley asserted that a departmental inquiry and criminal trial must go together.

    The leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha said suggestions that the victim had the choice of refraining from pursuing a criminal investigation were akin to offering the offender an escape route.

    The National Commission for Women (NCW) also swung into action and directed the news magazine to provide, within 24 hours, all details regarding the alleged sexual assault case.

    According to Goa Director General of Police (DGP) Kishen Kumar, a special team had been appointed to probe the case and a unit was on standby to fly to New Delhi to record the statement of the victim.

    “The Crime Branch is investigating the case. We are also in the process of sending a team to Delhi,” he said.

    Police sources say that efforts were being made to convince the victim to agree to give a formal statement to the police.

    However, Parrikar and the DGP said that Chaudhury was stalling the probe.

    “We have written to Shoma Chaudhury asking her to give the victims’ letter … she has not sent it,” Kumar said.

    But as pressure mounted on the magazine, known for its investigative brand of journalism, Chaudhury denied any cover-up allegations or delay in taking action.

    “Whether consensual or not, it was a grave transgression. So institutionally, one is not disputing her version,” she told reporters outside the Tehelka office in south Delhi.

    “It’s a misconception that there was a delay. I received a formal complaint only Nov 18, and took action as requested within three days. My response within those three days was to make sure all that she asked from me, and the institution, was addressed immediately,” she said.

    After the police charged Tejpal with rape, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), raised slogans outside the Tehelka office, demanding that Tejpal be arrested.

    As a precautionary measure, Delhi Police deployed security outside Tejpal’s South Delhi residence.

    In an apology mail to Chaudhury Wednesday night, Tejpal announced that he was stepping down from his post for six months. Chaudhury then wrote to her colleagues, with the appended “atonement” note of Tejpal, saying that “there was an incident which has been dealt with internally”.